Better Markets is celebrating its 10-year anniversary this month. To mark the event, Better Markets is publishing a series of blog posts profiling members of its staff and highlighting the work they do as lawyers, regulatory and legislative specialists, researchers, administrators, and fundraisers as they fight for the economic security, opportunity and prosperity of all Americans, particularly those who are disenfranchised.
Spotlight: Jason Grimes, Senior Counsel
Background: Jason is Senior Counsel for Better Markets where he is part of an accomplished legal team responsible for filing amicus briefs; drafting special reports; and litigating or intervening in cases on important topics in financial regulation and reform. Jason previously worked for the law firm of Covington & Burling where he worked on compliance issues related to financial regulation. He has been with Better Markets for more than two years.
How has the pandemic impacted Better Markets’ work?
The pandemic has impacted Better Markets’ work in a couple of ways. First of all, it has made clear how important the robust post-crisis reforms of the Dodd-Frank Act have been to financial stability. Even as the pandemic has resulted in a severe economic downturn, banks and the financial system have largely not contributed to the economic crisis, and as of yet (with the exception of the money market fund industry), there hasn’t needed to be any widespread bailouts or backstops. This is critical because taxpayers should not be on the hook for bailing out Wall Street on top of a pandemic that has caused so much suffering. It also demonstrates the effectiveness and necessity of the Dodd-Frank reforms to the safety and soundness of the financial system. Anyone who argues that those reforms should be rolled back has not heeded the lessons we have learned so far in this pandemic.
The pandemic has also demonstrated, unfortunately, how much our economic and financial system just does not work for certain Americans, especially Americans of color. People of color are just getting hammered with dual crises right now—we are at greater risk of infection from COVID, complications from COVID and dying of COVID. We are also disproportionately likely to be losing our jobs because of the resulting economic crisis. And, of course, we are less likely to have sufficient savings to withstand a significant period of unemployment and too often do not have any savings at all. The pandemic has made abundantly clear that there is a racial justice component to financial reform, and Better Markets has certainly recognized that.
If you could see the future, what do you think will be a pressing financial regulatory or court issue under the Biden administration?
I think a pressing financial regulatory issue for the Biden administration will be reforming the financial system not only to make it safer and sounder, but also to make sure it actually works for all Americans, especially Americans of color. As I talked about before, the pandemic has starkly demonstrated the degree of economic injustice in this country. The economic and financial system simply do not work for Americans of color. The Washington Post had an illuminating series on the life of George Floyd, the Black man who was murdered by police in Minnesota, and poverty was a throughline of his life. Economic and financial injustice are significant components of racial injustice, and financial regulatory agencies have a key role to play in fixing this. I would press the financial regulatory agencies under a Biden administration to make positive and significant strides in addressing these issues, including by modernizing the Community Reinvestment Act to make sure banks are actually investing in underserved communities, actively enforcing fair lending and other antidiscrimination laws, and promoting minority depository institutions.
What has made Better Markets so successful over the years?
One reason Better Markets has been so successful is because of the intellectual rigor we bring to our advocacy. In addition to the expertise and experience we always bring to bear, we carefully analyze every aspect of an issue to make sure that when we stake out a position, that position is a fully informed, educated one that appropriately advances the public interest. And then, every piece of work product around that issue, whether a comprehensive report, a comment letter to a regulatory agency or a brief to a court, contains a thorough and comprehensive analysis of the issue. This is because we recognize that to have any credibility on these complex issues, we need to put forward smart, robust analysis.
Another reason Better Markets has been so successful is because a spirit of collegiality and collaboration guides us, both within the organization and externally. Within, we all pitch in as needed to make sure we produce high-quality work. I’m in the legal department, so a bit more of a generalist, but I know I can always reach out to my colleagues if I need assistance on anything within their area of expertise; likewise, they know they can reach out to me if a legal analysis is ever needed. Externally, we also have good relationships with people at other organizations and do not hesitate to collaborate. Sometimes that means coming together to produce a joint brief or a joint comment letter. Other times, we call each other to discuss a particular issue and bounce ideas off of each other.